The Lead

‘Agriculture is central to our growth’: Pa. Gov. Shapiro attends opening of Carbon Co. farm’s greenhouse

By: - May 31, 2023 2:10 pm

(Gov. Josh Shapiro/Twitter)

(*This story was updated at 9:35 a.m. on Thursday June 1, 2023 to correctly reflect the economic contributions of Pennsylvania’s agriculture sector.)

In an effort to provide fresh produce for Americans on the East Coast, the largest indoor-grown leafy greens facility in Pennsylvania opened for business Wednesday. 

Gov. Josh Shapiro attended the event along with other state officials in a show of bipartisan support for the Commonwealth’s growing economy and agriculture sector. 

Carbon County-based Little Leaf Farms is the largest lettuce grower on the East Coast.

According to founder and CEO Paul Sellew, 95% of leafy greens are grown either in San Francisco or Arizona, leaving Americans on the East Coast with few options for fresh lettuce. 

Now, with a large greenhouse facility, the farm can continue growing year-round. 

“Weather events define where things grow, markets and the workforce. We can compete in an intense way — through controlled environment agriculture,” state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, who joined Shapiro at the event, said. “I like to stand in a greenhouse because you can see the past, with the simple parts of science, but you also see a future.” 

Part of Little Leaf Farm’s success comes from investments from the Pennsylvania government. 

The state invested $3.5 million into the grower under former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, allowing it to become more competitive, Shapiro said. 

“I believe we need to invest more when it comes to economic growth and opportunity,” Shapiro said. “It is a fact that we have 1.5 million more people than Ohio, and they’ve invested seven  times the amount when it comes to economic development. It takes money to become competitive”

*The Democratic governor said that the state’s agriculture sector has contributed 600,000 jobs and $132 billion annually to Pennsylvania’s economy in a sustainable and efficient way.

Shapiro also pointed out that it takes bipartisan work to make the economy grow, pointing out the attendance of Rep. Doyle Heffley R-Carbon. 

“We believe that agriculture is central to our growth when it comes to economic opportunity and making sure our small towns have what they need,” Shapiro said. “This is not a partisan exercise, but a common sense exercise.” 

Gov. Josh Shapiro and others at Little Leaf Farm in Carbon County on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 (Commonwealth Media Services)

At the event, Little Leaf Farms donated $10,000 to Feeding Pennsylvania, as part of the organization’s efforts to feed hungry Americans. Sellew called it “the beginning of a long-term relationship.” 

Little Leaf Farms isn’t done growing either — Sellew said the company aims to build the world’s largest producing area for baby leaf greens with the continued support of Carbon County and the Commonwealth. 

Gov. Shapiro’s first budget proposal includes $13.8 million to fund the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, $1 million to create a new Organic Center of Excellence and $500,000 to create a Center for Plant Excellence. 

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